Here we have a film clip of a good teacher and practitioner (Yonamine Sensei) doing a demo and putting himself out there for all to critique. I often say I hesitate to make disparaging comments under these circumstances. It's easy for us to sit back in our armchairs as experts and criticize. It's a lot harder getting up in front of a large crowd to show what you can do.
So I start by saying kudos to Yonamine Sensei and to the others who were brave enough to get up in front of a crowd and show their stuff. All of them today are better men than those of us who critique them after the fact.
OK... now let's get down to business. Your questions are both fair and insightful, and I'll address them.
Is it common practice in Uechi to block kicks with the arm (fully unsupported even!) like at 4:15 on?
Let me start by saying that I too winced when I saw that part of their conditioning routine. I believe we are ultimately on the same page, TSDguy. Nuff said.
Now I will elaborate.
Only a fraction of what you see on that film clip is "standard" Uechi conditioning. The Uechi kotekitae
(forearm conditioning) exercise is from 3:08 to 3:25. That is THE only routine that is a universal Uechi Ryu requirement. Everything else is 100% dojo specific. It is taking the principle of pounding on weapons to temper them, and applying that principle elsewhere. Those two gentlemen have their routines; I have my own sets that I've choreographed and I teach.
As a side note, TSDguy, what you see from 3:08 to 3:25 is the second half of the "standard" routine. The first half is "forearm rubbing." It isn't just a warmup to the "forearm pounding". It's also an opportunity to practice many, many subtle principles of posture, centering, sensing, and redirection. It's an opportunity to learn how to deliver energy from the core. It is both yin (on the pull) and yang (on the push). It's a LOT for something that on the surface seems so innocent and simple. But did they do it in this demo? Nope... Why not? You can only reach two conclusions: 1) they haven't a clue how important that half of the exercise is, or 2) it's too nuanced for a "tough guy" demonstration on stage in front of a large audience. I'll be generous and assume the latter. Yonamine and his friends are no dummies.
So... we've already set the stage for this being something other than what one typically would do in the dojo.
... to block kicks with the arm ...
Stop right there. These are not "blocks."
I sometimes get a bit irritated in fact with Senior Uechika (TM) who start obsessing over how the kotekitae should be done (as in 3:08 to 3:25). We shouldn't just let the "punch" go out there without "blocking" it so we don't develop bad habits, yada yada yada... Then I see a special on The Discovery Channel with a very old Master Tomoyose Ryuko (an important dude, TSDguy) doing kotekitae with another very old master. And they are doing exactly what has been criticized by others. In fact they are doing exactly what you see from 3:08 to 3:25.
Oops! THESE ARE NOT BLOCKS!!!!!
This is all about tempering the Uechi weapons. These are myriad strikes to body parts. In the short sequence of forearm conditioning referenced, the "block-like" motions are NOT blocks; they are strikes - period. In fact... that's a very nice mindset to have about motions we "assume" to be blocks. When you have Naha systems described as go-ju or pangainoon, then maybe half the time they are giving rather than receiving. Sometimes yin is yang, and sometimes yang is yin. That's a fundamental principle of this system.
OK... got that out of my system. I feel better now.
And now I'll contradict myself and agree with you a bit, TSDguy. Why? Because it's fun.
Yes... I agree to an extent with those who say we should be careful not to program bad habits. Yes, TSDguy, I actually accidentally
broke someone's forearm who tried a stationary, one-armed low block (gedan barai) on my simple front kick. And here you have someone doing a one-armed technique which - if done correctly - shouldn't be hurting the arm. But it happened. Bummer!
You are right, TSDguy, those guys are repeatedly doing one-armed high and low forearm strikes to high and low roundhouse kicks. Particularly with the low roundhouse kicks, it makes me wince. Yes... I'm with you in that it is potentially developing some bad habits.
For the record, TSDguy, I don't do that and I don't teach that.
What I don't get is conditioning to drop the arm to get yourself killed.
There are several good alternatives to what you see there, and all would be classic Uechi Ryu with a hidden, nasty offensive component built in. One would be to raise the knee while receiving the roundhouse kick with arm up. The other would be turning the body a bit and getting the other forearm involved in 3 possible combinations - both arms high, or the forearms alternately high/low in either/or combination. Yes... you're less likely to be breaking the forearm doing that, and you're also less likely to be setting up a head shot. But that kind of misses the point, and in many ways we are agreeing here. You're also programming a fit that is one step away from taking the person out.
And the "how" will need to be the subject of another thread.
Your points are well taken, TSDguy. And I hope my discussion shed light on the subject.